Is it safe to store dry food in plastic containers?
Not necessarily. While most consumers believe BPA free plastics are safe, the fact is that many BPA replacements, such as fluorene-9-bisphenol (BHPF), may be just as dangerous. Possibly even more so.
In studies using pregnant animals, those exposed to BHPF experienced comparable numbers of stillbirths; 24%.
The BHPF molecule fits into the estrogen receptor in a similar fashion as BPA. (1)
A popular material for both disposable and reusable food containers is melamine. This plastic can be colored or a cloudy-clear. It’s very durable. You will commonly find melamine used to make “kid-friendly” cups, plates, and bowls, as well as those at restaurants because they’re hard to break.
The World Health Organization has concluded (2):
“…there is sufficient evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of melamine under conditions in which it produces bladder calculi.”
In addition to possibly causing cancer, in rodents it was reported (3):
“…melamine exhibited more pronounced reproductive impact in comparison with formaldehyde.”
Lastly, the microscopic crystal formations which leech off of melamine surfaces block the tubular structures in the kidneys. This damage is largely irreversible, leading to permanent kidney damage over time. (4)
Whether a food storage container is made out of a BPA-based plastic, BPA-free plastic like BHPF, phthalates, melamine, or another type, the good news is that dry foods inside will cause far less leaching than hot, wet, or acidic foods. Nonetheless, molecules still migrate off the surface. The long term safety of this low level of exposure remains unknown.
Metal utensils used to eat out of plastic containers will amplify the leaching, because forks, knives, and spoons will scrape plastic off.
Even if metallic objects are not inserted, the friction of plastic silverware, scoops, and that of the dry food moving around inside will wear down the surface of the plastic container. It won’t be visible to the human eye or discernible without a microscope, but it’s still happening.
What is the best material for food storage?
Nonleaded glass. It’s made by heating natural sand to extreme temperatures. It may be low-tech but it’s non-toxic. Humans have been safely eating and drinking out of it for millenia. Glassmaking can be traced back to 3,500 BC.
Unlike metals such as aluminum and copper, glass does not leach with exposure to food, whether dry or wet.
Acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes, cause metals and plastic linings to breakdown. That’s why canned tomatoes can be dangerous, because even if it’s BPA-free bare aluminum, that’s a metal which is a confirmed neurotoxin. It has no known health benefit whatsoever, neither in humans or animals. (5)
Fido glass jar review
There are countless brands of safe glass storage containers which are not made with plastic. Do you want a time-tested design that’s made in Italy, not China?
If so, then your best bet is to buy Fido glass jars.
Based in Fidenza, Italy, the Bormioli Rocco company has been making glassware since 1825. Their three brands of food containers are Fido, Quattro Stagioni, and Frigoverre.
Quattro Stagioni are jars with a screw-on top. The type used for pickling and making homemade jams.
Frigoverre are glass bowls similar to Pyrex. They do have plastic lids.
Fido jars are the most famous product made by Bormioli Rocco. They’re made of glass that’s safe to eat off of. The only other material which may come in contact with the food inside is the natural rubber gasket seal. The metal hinges are outside the jar and don’t touch anything edible.
The benefit of Fido jars with clamp lids is that they create an air-tight seal. When you clamp the lid shut, it does a better job at stopping airflow than Ziploc bags.
Many are not aware of the fact that this can make your stored food actually healthier.
What degrades the antioxidants, vitamins, and other phytonutrients in foods is air, heat, and light.
An airtight container addresses the first cause, by trapping the air inside and preventing any further circulation.
All Fido jars are clear, so to avoid light you will want to store them in a cupboard or dark pantry.
There are some knockoff brands you can buy on Alibaba and similar places which do use colored glass. However, their quality and safety is scrupulous. Plus the glass is only translucent red, blue, orange, or green. It’s not opaque, so you would still want them stored away from daylight and artificial sources.
Unlike plastic bags and containers which leach more plastic when hot food is put in them, glass remains constant.
It is true that you can freeze food in a plastic containers and bags easier, but you can do so too with Pyrex glass bowls, so long as you leave space inside for the liquids to expand when they turn into ice.
As measured in liquid ounces, Fido glass jar sizes are available with capacities of 4.25, 6.75, 17.5, 25.25, 33.75 (1 L), 50.75, 67.75 (2 L), 101.5 (3 L) and 135.25 (4 L). The smaller sizes are the most popular. The largest sizes can be hard to find for sale.
If you’re a regular reader of Superfoodly, you will recognize these jar which are often featured in the ingredient photos for our recipes.
For dry shelf-stable foods, Fido jars work well for flours, pasta, oatmeal, cacao powder, spices, and freeze-dried fruit powders, such as maqui.
The latter is an excellent use, because the zip plastic bags from Navitas and similar superfood powder brands all do a lousy job at staying shut. After opening, shove those bags in jars with clamp lids, to ensure they’re airtight.
Putting powder in a jar also prevents a mess on your countertop.
We dump a 1 lb bag of raw cacao powder into a 33.25 oz sized Fido jar.
When you scoop it out, the powder doesn’t go airborne like it does with the flicker of the plastic bag. Plus, the seal on that bag gets clogged with cacao, making closing it near impossible.
A 12 oz bag of dry coffee fits in the 33.25 oz size, just barely though. The reason it fits so snug, despite weighing less, is because the dry grinds take up a more space than a liquid like water.
Oh and in case you’re wondering, this is the coffee we drink. It’s the best tasting and healthiest.
After opening a bag of ground coffee, store it in a Fido in your fridge.
The antioxidant content in coffee, measured using ORAC values, holds up well prior to opening, when it’s vacuum sealed at the factory.
After opening, the degradation occurs much faster at a room temperature of 68°F (20°C) versus a refrigerated temperature of 39°F (4°C). (6)
With the exception of minerals, this same trend takes place with almost all phytonutrients.
The smallest Fido jar, which is 4.25 ounces, works good for spices and herbs. Particularly those where a shaker is not sufficient for the quantity you like to use per serving. When it’s in a jar, you can scoop or pour it out more easily.
Here we put chili pepper flakes in the glass jar. Rather than label it, we chose the red lid version to intuitively signify what’s inside (hot pepper).
Ceylon cinnamon goes in an orange jar, since it’s close to that color.
It’s not safe to store 100% fats, such as oils or butter, in any glass container with a rubber seal. This is because the fats will breakdown the natural rubber overtime. It may not be dangerous per se, but it will destroy the jar.
Pouring boiling water or extremely hot food into a glass jar, dish, or other container is dangerous. The high temperature can cause the glass to crack or shatter. To be safe, don’t put extremely hot food inside.
On the flip side, you don’t want to wait for the food to cool so it’s lukewarm, because that’s when bacterial growth is at its highest. The danger zone is 90 to 140°F, 32 to 60°C. (7)
If hot out of the oven, just wait 10 minutes or so. Then you can scoop the food into a glass container and store it in your fridge or freezer.
If freezing, leave at least 30% open space for expansion to occur; for the liquid to turn into ice.
Some reviews say that fermenting in Fido jars is dangerous because there isn’t room for expansion, though others disagree and report success with using them. Even the Bormioli Rocco website talks about pickling with them, so perhaps the problems are from people who weren’t leaving adequate space inside.
Where to buy Fido jars
While made in Italy, they’re popular throughout the world. You can find Fido glass jars for sale at many major retail chains including Crate and Barrel, Sur La Table, Target, and Cost Plus World Market.
Walmart doesn’t Fido in-store, but they do on their website. As do Amazon, Ebay, and Jet. Macy’s and many department stores sell online but not at their physical locations.
Five years ago we bought a few at Sur La Table. Despite being a high-end cooking store, they didn’t carry all the sizes and colors. Not even close. Since then, we have bought all of ours on Amazon and always keep several empty ones on hand in the pantry, ready to be used when the need arises.
If you don’t know which sizes will be best for your needs, then start with a set.
On Amazon you can get an affordable set of 3 which include 17.5 oz, 33.75 oz, and 50.75 oz. Here’s the link.